An artwork by Alexander Calder which depicts a black sun shape with a smiling face, with an orange and yellow circular sun behind it and wavy black lines underneath.Alexander Calder, Pour La Grande Vitesse, 1968. Gouache and graphite on paper. Grand Rapids Art Museum, Gift of the Artist, 1970.1.1 © 2019 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Alexander Calder: Pour La Grande Vitesse and other Works on Paper

June 6, 2019 – August 25, 2019

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In 1969, Alexander Calder’s La Grande Vitesse was erected in Grand Rapids. It was an important moment for public sculpture in the U.S., as La Grande Vitesse was the first public art work funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. Over time, Calder’s towering red sculpture has become a beloved icon of our city.

Beginning in 1968, the Grand Rapids Art Museum began acquiring works by Calder for the museum’s permanent art collection, including the sculpture Red: Rudder in the Air, currently on view in our third-floor galleries, as well as numerous prints and unique works on paper–eleven of which are displayed here.

In his works on paper, Calder was drawn to the same concepts that occupied him in his three-dimensional work. In these compositions we see Calder exploring dynamic movement, form, and the interaction of bold colors. Simple geometric and organic shapes teeter between abstraction and recognizable imagery like planets, pyramids, snakes, and plants. In all of Calder’s work, there is a sense of lively exploration and discovery.